Data Analytics: Fact Based vs. Faith Based

Data Analytics: Fact Based vs. Faith Based

In order to realize transparent and accountable leadership, leading driven by facts in decision making is imperative to Africa’s growth and development. With universities turning to big data analytics technologies, it is not deemed wise for African governments to wait without adopting these data analytics technologies as well. Data analytics technologies boast the ability to gather data from different sources, apply functional and specific knowledge to the data to provide timely intelligent insight, and to ensure optimal functionality of an institution, government department(s) or communities. For example if a country need to develop a strategic roadmap they will have to rely on data from various finance entities on foreign direct investment, tourism industry data, armed forces data, finance ministry data and other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive strategic plan.

Governments in Africa need to develop the necessary institutional capacity for data analytics in order to create winning strategies. Winning strategies need to be driven by data that has been accumulated over a period of time. Once there is a comprehensive demographic  If governments are serious about delivering efficient services and distributing resources, there is a need to adopt data analytics tools so that they stop relying on ‘gut feel’. This would allow them to have good visibility of operational activities and services and to be able to identify and act on tangible opportunities.

Before governments can successfully enjoy the fruits of data analytics, there is a need to recruit data scientists who are adept with analytics and pattern visualization tools on each government team. Data scientists have solid foundation in statistics, data modeling, mathematics, computational science, etc. They have strong statistical analysis background and can communicate trends and meaning in data to provide some insight which can be used in decision making. The presence of independent data scientists would allow governments and legislators to depend on fact based decisions as opposed to faith-based ones. Fact-based decisions draw meaning from massive datasets instead of depending on the decision-makers’ intuition. Faith is a belief that is not substantiated by fact, basically is not based on proof. In short, our countries need to evolve and count on analytics that provide new information and real-time feedback for critical service delivery, support and devise new economic development strategies.

The dependence on analytics would help governments and politicians have a deeper understanding of what is happening on the ground, help to track development progress being made, provide equitable allocation of scarce resources and most importantly make accurate and real-time decisions. As governments make a claim on universal human rights, they need to know exactly what is happening on the ground and within their key departments in order to keep resources flowing, while developing sustainable partnerships with communities that add value to its citizens. The people on the ground would benefit from programs, distributed resources, and informed investments made by governments to develop marginalized communities.

Data analytics give decision-makers access to historical data and information that is readily available, thus shortening the distance to comprehensive answers provided through networked tools with multiple streamlined routes. The tools harness the power of relationships, thus providing a comprehensive visual picture that can be easily understood by high level politicians and executives. The community dynamics are easily captured through analytics with the help of data scientists to provide credible analysis and explanations of findings. Data analytics aid in identifying trends and perform comprehensive analytics, integrating traditional structured data with unstructured data from different sources.  Comprehensive analytics would ensure right-time analysis, thus optimizing the value of all data available.

As countries we cannot afford to relegate valuable information to the back office or keep it in files and expect to make informed and accurate decisions on the future of our state affairs. If we are to adopt fact-based decisions, we need to transform currently available data into actionable knowledge. So leveraging analytical tools would allow various government institutions to provide an accurate current-state snapshot, long-term projections or forecasts and inform our legislatures on policies or bills to be worked on. Analytics hold transformative promise for governments, corporations, non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education and international organizations.

Reuben Dlamini

Reuben Dlamini is an Academic Technology Consultant at the Information Technology & Services Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA.

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